Book Review: Almost Infamous - The Nine Suns

The current superhero boom has been around long enough to inspire satires and piss takes – subverting the classic superhero tale is now as much of a tradition as…well, the traditional story. If you think about it, the idea of someone finding out he has superpowers, and responding by donning a spandex outfit and flying around fighting evil is rather ridiculous.

Add to this anti-canon Matt Carter’s Almost Infamous: A Supervillain novel. As the title suggests, it tells the superhero tale from the point of view of the usual antagonist, in this case, a bored and unambitious youth from Middle America named Aidan Salt. He lived in a world where superheroes are part of daily life, a force to be reckoned with, the ultimate ambition to aspire too. But young Aidan had other ideas – discovering that he has the power of telekinesis, he sets out to become the first real supervillain the world has seen in decades, with all the fame, wealth and womanly affection it entails.

Of course, things don’t go tp plan – his first outing is a bloody disaster (in the very literal sense) and before long he tracked down by actual heroes…who then make him an offer he can;t refuse. The superheroes, as it turns out, have gotten too good at their jobs – all the mad scientists, criminal masterminds, and superpowered psychopaths are either dead, imprisoned, or seen the error of the ways. Aliens no longer invade, and increasingly the governments of the world wonder why they need to keep funding a bunch of flying celebrities in capes and tights. The heroes need villains, and Aidan finds himself answering the call to infamy.

It’s not the most original concept, to be sure – Garth Ennis, as an example, has covered similar ground about superheroes who are decidedly not heroic in far more scatological terms. Matt Carter doesn’t go quite that far, but there are some fairly graphic sex scenes along with the expected violence. An interesting fact about the story is that it takes place in an alternate history where superheroes were the primary force shaping the world since the middle of the 19th Century. The British Empire is still in existence in the 21st Century, Atlantis is a world power (and a premier source of supermodels) and Detroit no longer exists (for reasons that are really funny in a horrific sort of way…)

To conclude, definitely a decent read. The author takes a familiar concept and offers a unique spin on it, with fully fleshed out characters who flaws as human beings make them anything by cardboard cutouts. After all, the bad guys always have more fun…